Our text for today comes from Philippians 3:10-11 and can be found on page 981 of the Bibles in the pew racks. These are the words of God:
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
Most Easter sermons focus on the objective historical facts of Christ’s resurrection (medical, empty tomb, eyewitnesses), and well they do. If Christ was not raised bodily, if the material world is all there is, do you know what that means? All the great thinkers knew what it meant as well:
It is possible to provide security against other ills, but as far as death is concerned, we all live in a city without walls.
What is the verdict of the vastest mind?
Silence: the book of fate is closed to us.
Man is a stranger to his own research;
He knows not whence he comes, nor whither goes.
Tormented atoms in a bed of mud,
Devoured by death, a mockery of fate.
Paul knew what it meant as well. Eat and drink for tomorrow we die. (1 Cor. 15:16, 32) We have a stake in this, for there is no salvation if Christ is in the tomb.
In the passage before us Paul isn’t proving the objectivity of the resurrection. Instead, he tells us that the resurrection of Christ is also a subjective experiential reality that can come into your life—not as a romantic, idealized abstraction but as a practical reality. In order to understand this we need to look at:
First, the nature of the resurrection. What is it? Then, the effects of the resurrection. What does it look like when the resurrection is the operative power in our life. Finally, the promise of our resurrection. How can we be assured that we’ll be raised?
THE NATURE OF THE RESURRECTION
Paul assumed the Philippians understood what the Scriptures taught concerning the resurrection. The resurrection is not a consolation prize for having not received the life you wanted. It’s not the mere resuscitation of your body. We don’t have time to survey all the important passages, but let me give you three.
The resurrection of Christ is the swallowing up of evil, separation, and death. (Isa. 25:7-8)
7 And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
8 He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
The resurrection of Christ is the pattern for our own resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:22, 23, & 49)
22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ…. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
The resurrection is the renewal of all things, and it begins now. (Matt. 19:28; Titus 3:5)
The ancient Greeks, the Philippians before they were converted, believed that history was a bug cycle that repeated itself. So, history would decline until things got really bad and then there would be a great conflagration in which the world was purged and would start over. And they had a technical term for it: palingenesia. But in Matthew 19:28 Jesus said something remarkable:
28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.
When Jesus speaks of the “new world” the word is literally, “In the palingenesia…” or, “In the regeneration of all things…” and it’s not cyclical, it’s a final and eternal reality. After death is swallowed up, after all evil is burned off, the entire cosmos will be eternally renewed.
Now, hold on to that thought because this word palingenesia is only used twice in the New Testament: in Christ’s teaching on the final cosmic renewal and in Titus 3:5 when Paul says:
[God] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit
Do you see what this is saying? The power of God that raised Christ from the dead, the same power that will renew the cosmos eternally, is the same power that comes into your life today when you are born again and saved from your sins. In other words, the resurrection that will one day raise your body out of the grave comes to you now to raise your soul spiritually.
When Paul says to the Philippians, “I want to know the power of the resurrection,” he’s saying, “Because Christ died for sin and was bodily raised, one day death, separation, and evil will be swallowed up, my body which dies will be raised, the cosmos will be renewed, and you can begin experiencing that power now.”
THE EFFECTS OF THE RESURRECTION
What you believe about the future has dramatic implications for how you are living today. For instance, imagine you hire two women to work at your company for a one-year term. You agree to pay the first $25,000 and the second you agree to pay $15,000,000. In the ensuing year, who is going to handle adversity better? Who is more likely to look elsewhere for a better deal?
In v. 10 Paul says, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection” In the Bible “to know” goes beyond mental awareness and understanding into intimate unity. “Adam knew his wife,” isn’t a euphemistic way of saying they had sex.
Beyond knowing Christ, Paul says he wants to share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” The word share is the same word Paul used earlier to speak of the financial partnership he had with the Philippian church. (Phil. 1:5) In other words, Paul says, the personal experience of the resurrection of Christ isn’t just a mental state, or internal peace. It produces radical life change. It’s a future reality that has already begun to work in the present. It controls how you live.
• If it’s true that at the return of Christ, God is going to raise his saints and they will never die or get sick again, then the fear of death shouldn’t drive you into despair.
• If it’s true that, at the return of Christ, God is going to bring perfectly applied justice to evil, then you have no reason to seethe in anger when evildoers seem to prosper.
We didn’t read the verses but in v. 4-6 Paul tells us about his life before Christ. He had an agenda for God. But when he met the resurrected Christ—his agenda was turned on its head and instead of having an agenda for God, God became his agenda. Before meeting Christ, he saw God as useful. But when he met Christ, he saw him as beautiful. How about you?
THE PROMISE OF OUR RESURRECTION
How can the resurrection power of Christ become more than a fact of history to you? How can you personally and practically experience that power?
Throughout this chapter, Paul has been driving toward Christ:
v. 7 “whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.”
v. 8 “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus.”
v. 9 “for his sake I have suffered the loss of all things that I may gain Christ.”
v. 9 “I want to be found in him.”
v. 10 “I want to know him.”
v. 11 “I want to obtain the resurrection.”
Why this relentless pursuit? Is he trying to earn his way towards resurrection? No.
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
The old KJV:
that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended
When Jesus Christ went to the cross, he didn’t pay for potential sins. He didn’t die for the possibility that sinners could be saved. Friends, he went to the cross with a list of names. When he was dying, he was claiming your sin. When he was suffering, he was obtaining you; he was making you his own possession.
We are in Christ because of his changeless, loving will that it should be so.